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How to request congratulatory letters for your Eagle Scout

(Updated Feb. 19, 2013) Earning the Eagle Scout Award is something to write home about — literally.

Politicians, astronauts, celebrities, and other recognizable figures have been sending hand-signed letters to new Eagle Scouts for, well, 100 years.

The very first congratulatory letter was sent in 1912 when the first Eagle Scout, Arthur R. Eldred, received a note from James E. West, the first Chief Scout Executive.

Today, parents and Scout leaders can request these scrapbook-worthy keepsakes from pretty much anyone with a mailbox.

But who is known to respond, and how do you contact them? And when do you send off these requests anyway?

To help, I searched the Internet and consulted a source closer to home — my dad, who sent away for the letters included in this post when I received my Eagle.

When to request Eagle Scout letters

The basic rule is ASAP, my dad says.

After a boy completes his board of review, he’s officially an Eagle Scout. But most boys don’t have their Eagle court of honor until weeks or months later, so that’s your window for requesting and receiving letters.

My board of review was in March, but my court of honor wasn’t until late April, so my parents had time to collect letters to include in the scrapbook displayed at my ceremony.

Of course, any letters you don’t get by the ceremony date can still be added to the boy’s Eagle Scout scrapbook later.

Whom to ask for letters

  • City and county officials: Your mayor, city council officials, school board president, superintendent, parks and recreation director
  • Religious leaders
  • State officials: The governor, your area’s state legislators
  • Business leaders: CEOs and executives at major corporations based in your city
  • U.S. officials: The president, cabinet members, senators, representatives, military leaders, department heads
  • Past presidents or elected officials no longer in office
  • Prominent national people: astronauts, athletes, filmmakers, actors, and famous Eagle Scouts like Mike Rowe or Steven Spielberg
  • Anyone who means something to your Eagle Scout: Get creative! Does he have a favorite author, athlete, musician, or actor? Try to track down that person’s contact information. The letter may go unanswered, but it only costs you 49 cents to try.

Where to find addresses

Rather than reinventing the wheel and posting addresses here, I’ll just link to this excellent resource from the U.S. Scouting Service Project.

For addresses not listed there, find the appropriate Web site and look for the “Contact Us” link — usually at the top of the page or at the very bottom.

Some entities, such as NASA or the U.S. Army, allow you to submit request online. Many of those links are at the U.S. Scouting Service Project, as well.

Try local first

NEW: In mid-February 2013, I received this note from Todd Reid, state director for the office of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Reid saw my blog and had this to say:

Just a note on how it works best for our office, which may be representative of most members of Congress.

Requests are best sent to local in-state offices, not the Washington office. Mail sent to the US Capitol undergoes a lengthy security screening that can take up to three weeks from the time the letter arrives in DC until it is delivered to our office. Letters sent directly to our in-state offices go thru their own security screening process, but because the volume of mail is much less, the process moves much faster.

Senator Rubio is always glad to acknowledge the Scout’s achievement, and we are honored that their friends, leaders and loved ones invite us to participate in a small way in the Scout’s Eagle Court of Honor.

Thanks for the insight, Mr. Reid.

What to include

The U.S. Scouting Service Project recommends including the Scout’s full name, troop number, council, and a short description of his Eagle Scout service project. For best results, address it to a specific person, not an organization.

Including a self-addressed stamped envelope makes it that much easier to get a response.

Final thoughts

Go for quality over quantity. Think about it: Would your Eagle Scout prefer four or five letters from people that are important to him or three dozen mainly from people he’s never heard of?

Plus, as the U.S. Scouting Service Project notes, keeping the total number of requests from new Eagles to a manageable size may prevent someone from refusing to accept requests altogether.

What do you think?

Who have you successfully heard back from that isn’t listed here? Post their addresses below.

What are your tips for getting congratulatory letters? Help others by sharing your thoughts below.

My Eagle Scout letters

Just for fun, I thought I’d share some of my Eagle Scout letters:

56 thoughts on “How to request congratulatory letters for your Eagle Scout

    • Who writes the letters? Does the scout request his letters? For example, do they say “please send me a congratulatory letter” or does the parents ask them to send their son a letter? Thank you!

      • Shannon: As I see that nobody answered your posting, I’ll do so…knowing that this is a two-year old response *smiling*. Because you’re asking them to be presented or read by the Scout, someone within the Troop (the Troop Committee Chair; the Secretary of the Troop’s Committee; a member of the Committee who’s job it is to coordinate the Eagle Courts of Honor, etc.). Parents of the new Eagle Scout can also submit requests for letters but I have observed that those many people appreciate a request moreso from the Scouting organization (the Troop, Team, Crew or Ship) than from the parents of a Scout unless it’s really compelling in nature.

        I send about 150 letters to Eagle Scouts each year (last year’s total was 148). In my request, I ask the new Eagle to please send me a copy of the Eagle Court of Honor program if it was prepared and the location, date and time of the Court of Honor. I place that information on my personal calendar and it has not been unusual that that I find myself in that town or city and in looking on my schedule, see that John Fay’s Eagle Court of Honor is that evening or the following day not too far from where I am staying.

  1. When my son got his Eagle, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. So, I did a search on his name (Google was the latest up-and-coming thing back then), and sent e-mails to all the interesting-looking people who shared his name. When the time came for his eagle presentation, I had half-a-dozen or more letters or e-mails from others with his name, congratulating him on his achievement in their collective name.

    I read some of them at the ceremony – it took a while for everyone to catch on, but once they did it was a real hit.

  2. Not to diminish the importance of the letters but remember this, when it comes to politicians and dignitaries all the letters same the same thing, just in different words, and the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead didn’t write the letter, and most likely didn’t sign it. Don’t go nuts at the Court of Honor having relatives read all the letters; it just bores everybody there and drags the ceremony on unnecessarily.

    • our Scoutmasters just pick out a few letters to read, and after the COH put the book out on a table if anyone wants to read the other letters, and it didn’t bore us to look at the letters our son received, they took time out of their busy to send the letter

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  4. Thanks for sharing these, Ryan, great to look at.

    I do have a question: Your entry says “After a boy completes his board of review, he’s officially an Eagle Scout,” but I’ve read on USSSP that the fat lady hasn’t sung until everything has been sent to National and the credentials have been sent back. This last step is on p. 52 of the Guide to Advancement. Is there actually anything that can happen at that point that will stop the rank? (I would try to dig up the post on USSSP, but that place is a digital nightmare, I’d never find it again).

    • (I would try to dig up the post on USSSP, but that place is a digital nightmare, I’d never find it again).”

      Hey, even I have problems finding stuff on the USSSP. :-)
      We do have a LOT of information there.

      Could it have been on Scouts-L?

    • Paul Wolf and I along with others working the Service Project are constantly realigning and placing information on the site which makes sense. Your suggestions are welcomed by posting to me at blackeagle.walton@usa-ret.org or kyblkeagle@aol.com ; however the BSA has the last (and official) word on this matter — here it is from the Guide to Advancement:

      “9.0.1.10 National Advancement Team Returns Credentials
      The national Advancement Team validates all applications received. Then the National Distribution Center generates the credentials and prints, packages, and mails the certificate, pocket card, and congratulatory letter to the council. Applications sent for manual processing go to the national Advancement Team and
      take several weeks to complete. Upon receipt of the Eagle credentials, council service center personnel should alert unit leadership immediately.”

      And more importantly:

      “8.3.8.0 Particulars for the Eagle Scout Rank
      11. The Eagle Scout medal or patch must not be sold or
      otherwise provided to any unit or to the Scout, nor should the court of honor be scheduled until after the certificate is received at the council service center from the national Advancement Team.”

      Hope that helps with the process and the specialness of the Eagle Scout Award!

  5. Bryan’s blog pot is great, and we appreciate his endorsement of our site. But he left out an important point that I would add. He indirectly mentioned it in passing, but I hope this makes the following point clear.

    At the end of our page is a list of individuals and organizations that have specifically asked us to remove them from our listing, either because of the work load involved and/or a lack of staff to handle the requests, or in some cases due to the incapacity of the individual.

    So please check that list and avoid sending requests to those people and groups.

    Thanks,
    Paul S Wolf
    Secretary, US Scouting Service Project
    (I maintain that page for the USSSP and I welcome additions or corrections)

    PS: In response to PJ4378′s comment: While the official date that a Scout becomes an Eagle Scout is the date of his Eagle Board of Review, the advancement is not official until the credentials have been returned by the National office. In some VERY RARE cases, the advancement has been rejected or postponed when the national office has found a discrepancy in the records or some other reason to deny the advancement. So, at the end of the EBOR the Scout is already an Eagle, but the advancement is still subject to verification by the national office.

    Paul

  6. When our sons got their Eagles we did the letter requests, but we also purchased a flag that had flown over the nation’s capital on the day they had their board of review. Contact your Senator.

  7. I was lucky enough to plan my son’s Eagle Court of Honor as ASM of Tr 17 Cumberland, MD. Eli is our creative son. Does not care in the least if he had a letter from any official from anywhere. (although I did try to get some) I asked Eli, Son, some people get letters and certificates from the Military, govt officials etc. Who is important in your life that you would like to get a letter from. He rattled off several bands…Phish, Keller Williams, and several others. So I wrote to them. Phish sent a photo with all of their signatures and Keller Williams wrote a long letter in pencil on ripped out spiral notebook paper and sent an autographed tee shirt. The letter was very interesting and I read it at the ceremony. An interesting idea for the more creative Eagle Scouts that come along. BTW Eli had dreds to his shoulders at his ceremony. (to each his own I suppose)

      • Love this…My son too is named Eli and just like your son he could care less about the political letters…I am also going for his favorite band members and the like. He just made Eagle this past Thursday. Great to see Your Eli’s Court of Honor was a success ….now I know I’m on the right track! Thanks for a great post!

  8. I have found several sites with addresses but nothing on what the letter should say that is being sent to the people at these addresses. Do you just gives the boy’s name and a description of his project? A sample letter would be a lot of help. Any idea where I could find one?

  9. When I helped organized Eagle COH for my troop, I tried to find out what interested the scout. In one case, a scout had great-grandparents who fought in the civil war; he was very interested in civil war history. I found a group organized for and by descendants of those who fought in the civil war.His letter from that group was very personalized to the scout and included an invitation to join the group. He was very touched. In addition there was a scout who was the troop’s “knotmaster”; he could figure out a knot by looking at it and was able to teach others how to tie the knot. I found an organization that focused on “knots”; they sent a very special letter to the scout, inviting him to join their organization. Letters to politicians are great; letters to groups or people that recognize the Scout’s special interests are greatly appreciated and treasured. But they do take more time.

    • Who was the organization that focused on knots? My son just became Eagle last night and he is an expert “knotmaster.” I would love to contact them. I also want to contact “Google” because he loves to google stuff but so far I can’t find anyone there to send a letter…anybody out there work for Google and willing to write a letter of congrats?

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  15. Bryan,

    You missed the boat entirely on this one. An Eagle Scout should send out invitations to his Court of Honor to whomever he wishes would attend, be it Chuck Norris or President Obama. The letters are their polite way of declining those invitations.

    You don’t write to famous people and ask for a letter. That is rude.

    In fact, it is really, really, really rude.

    I invited our state and national senators and the president to my COH. I received nice letters in return, but some of them actually showed up at the COH, and we had some pretty heavy-hitting politicians speaking.

    Sending a request for a letter is a selfish act of self-aggrandizement. It is against the Scout Law. It is not in the service of others. It is not friendly, courteous or kind. It certainly is not helpful.

    It is helpful to yourself, unfriendly and rude to others, and a total violation of what the Boy Scouts have represented for 100 years. We are the guys who help others. We are not the guys who ask others to give us free stuff.

    Send your invitations out and offer to host and feed your guests. That is polite.

    Ask for a letter? You probably not be an Eagle Scout if this is how your mind works.

    Keep repeating the meditation, please. “We are not princesses, and this is not our wedding.”

    • Thanks for your comments, but I’ll politely disagree.

      I think you misread my post and thought I was suggesting that the boys themselves request the letter. Actually, I’m addressing parents. My blog is aimed at Scouters and Scout parents — adults.

      With that in mind, I’ll note that parents have been requesting letters for their Eagle Scout sons for decades. It’s often intentionally done without the boy’s knowledge so he can be surprised with these letters at his court of honor.

      In fact, in the time since I put up this post, three parents have written me requesting that I write a letter for their son. I found this quite friendly, courteous, and kind. In fact, I found it flattering that people would invite me to be a tiny piece of their son’s important moment.

      Not in the service of others? Wrong. That’s exactly what a parent or Scouter who requests a letter is doing. They’re creating a memory for an Eagle Scout that will last for generations.

      Thanks,

      Bryan

      • Great response Bryan,
        I am a parent of an Eagle Scout and I’m in the process o equesting letters o my son,s court of honor.

        Thanks for the great ideas!

        Jim

      • Question: When someone has written a letter to acknowledge your son’s achievement (solicited or not solicited), is it customary to write a letter acknowledging their letter? My son was writing Thank You notes to people who attended his COH and people who gave him a gift. He thanked people who gave him cards but we weren’t sure about the letters. Is there a time frame when he should get the notes out by?

      • See, I would go a bit further than your response, Bryan.

        The UNIT should be sending those letters and invites, NOT the Scout and *I* am going to say, not the parents. The Court of Honor is a UNIT event moreso than it’s an individual event. We’ve had this conversation over on LinkedIn in the past three weeks, and I’ve slowly convinced folk over there of that fact.

        Getting a letter or Eagle Scout Court of Honor invitation from a Scout or his parents is nice; getting it from the Troop, Team, Crew or Ship hosting the Court of Honor is a lot better and involved several people. It is *common courtesy* to accept or turn down an invite, hence the reasoning for the letters and good word greetings (and everything which goes along with them).

        I am always reminded of one of my favorite actors, Richard Dean Anderson (you know, the guy who played “MacGyver”, an Eagle Scout from Minnesota…that guy) showing up at a Scout’s Eagle Court of Honor in the LA area. He, like all of those Congressmen and Senators, the presidents of Fortune 500 companies, and the BSA’s national leadership, received an invite to this kid’s Court of Honor. People were surprised when he showed up and gave the new Eagle Scout one of those “swiss army knives” he uses on the show along with an autographed photo and stood for 20 minutes to get his photo taken with other Scouts and their families. As I read the story, I made mental notes to not just write the “congratulatory letter” to the Scout but also to maybe drive by where his project was; or to sit in the back of the church or school or whatever and just “be there” for the Scout. The event is about his unit’s newest Eagle Scout — him — and whether he gets letters to put into a binder or notebook; or they get read (please don’t read ALL of them during the Court of Honor…four or five are great and acknowledge all who did write or send something!); or just displayed — let the UNIT do that heavy lifting and research!

  16. I have been sending for these for my Troop since my son became Eagle in 1998. It is a joy to do them and I truly appreciate how happy the Eagle and his family is with the book.
    Steven Spielberg will not send any letters until the Gay issue is removed. Mike Rowe’s is very expensive since you need to send each request separately (we sometimes have two to three Eagles at one time) and with a self addressed large manilla envelope.

    Also, Supreme Court Justices will not reply.

    One of the nicest requests I had a few years ago was to write my own letter so that years later the Eagle will remember who took the time to put his book together.

  17. I did something similar for the BSA 100th. My son was a cub scout at the time and I had the boys in his den write letters to former scouts in various professions requesting either a birthday wish for boy scouts our some of their fondest memories of scouting. We used them to create a birthday area at our blue and gold banquet. I had a connection to an astronaut who helped with other astronauts contacts and I had a connection to a congressman who was an eagle. The most touching letter was a hand written note in shaky penmanship from John Glenn. Each boy got to keep the letters that he solicited.

    I think this is a wonderful idea for Eagle recognition!

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  19. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was floundering wondering how I would do all of this. I really appreciate all of the help. My son just completed his board of review & is now an Eagle scout. Very grateful for the help!

  20. Thank you, Brian. I can’t tell you how helpful your blog was to me. When my son passed his Eagle Board of Review I had no idea what to do to prepare for his Court of Honor. I referenced your blog constantly and am happy to say his Court of Honor was a huge success!! Just as an fyi, when he received the congratulatory letter from John Kerry, a note was with it that all requests should be sent via this new website address: http://register.state.gov/scouts. Thanks again!

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  22. Sorry kid, they don’t hand out medals for being a good citizen.This is expected of every youth, no exceptions.It’s called growing up. Stop trying to get something for nothing and riding on your family and friend’s coat tails: Believe me, the rest of the world doesn’t care who you are related to or who you know.( If you can’t discuss your achievements in life without saying “my dad” or “my mom” you have a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed.) When you become an adult, you are expected to be independent of your parents. In case you have been living a sheltered life, all children become adults when they turn 18 years old. At that point, they are fully responsible their actions, good or ill.
    If you need more “growing up time” beyond being a boy scout, man up and enlist in the service. You will learn the lasting virtues of discipline, strategy and respect The “real” boy scouts and girl scouts of America have long volunteered themselves to protect and defend the USA, even if meant sacrificing their lives. Getting an honorable discharge means you survived it. Your folks getting a box, letter of thanks and a PH means you didn’t. Being a “real” boy scout and girl scout is a risky life. Rank is earned.
    If you just want a piece of paper to hang on your wall, get additional education. If you need more, get off your duff and go earn it. Until then, stop asking for written acknowledgements for “growing up.”

    • Hi Vet!!

      I too am a veteran and pretty proud of it. As a Soldier and later leader of Soldiers, I spend time writing letters to families explaining their son or daughter’s exceptional service. Yes, they got the medal. Yes, they got the discharge. But that letter from me to Mom and Dad and perhaps to the servicemember themselves explains in more detail their service than the medal or form stating their separation from military service.

      In a box — only because we have small grandchildren and animals which sometime confuse “papers” with “food” — are the eleven letters from “important people” attesting to my receiving the Eagle Scout medal. These people took the time — they pushed a button or told someone in their office to push a button; or they sat down and as I do today, write a personal letter to that new Eagle Scout, encouraging him to continue to do those things which marks him as an Eagle. I can’t speak for those many others but I can speak for myself: if I can impart just a small bit of encouragement, a spark, some words of wisdom (even if they did not originate with me) — then I’ve helped celebrate that kid’s achievement.

  23. Why just ask for a letter? We have found that actually inviting the politicians or other guests to the actual Court Of Honor can provide an even better response. If the person cannot come, they will usually send a congratulatory letter instead. You may be surprised who shows up.

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